Leadership
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Leadership Defined (05:35)

One definition of a good leader is someone who is “a pain” to those above and takes care of those below. Does this definition make sense? How should leaders be chosen?

“I don’t know the definition of above and below. I actually think we’re a single team,” says Akram Boutros, President and CEO of The MetroHealth System. “We just have different jobs and different responsibilities.”

“I believe in physician-administrative dyads,” adds University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee. The administrative side of this dyad is strong, she explains, but health care organizations need to work on physician leadership development. “If we really want to transform our health care system,” says Lee, “there has to be physician leadership involved in that.”

“What would you share to encourage leaders being developed, and those who are in current leadership positions, to make organizations more of a learning culture?” asks Eddie Greene, Director of the Office for Diversity in Education at Mayo Clinic. Initiatives like those described by Lee and Boutros need to be sustained and grow so that we don’t lose them. “We [may] have success today,” says Greene, “but we actually need success for the long game.”

Psychological safety creates the ability to challenge the status quo and ask for help. According to Boutros, it’s critically important to develop this feeling in current and future leaders so that your organization can become adaptive. “I really have no idea what’s going to be on the horizon for the next 20 or 30 years, so all I’ve got to figure out is how to become more adaptive,” says Boutros. “If leaders focus on that, they’ll realize that we’re all fallible, and we’re not going to be experts on all of those things. We’re just going to need to become experts on change.”

We need to create more opportunities for staff to step up and get a taste of what leadership means, says Lee — how difficult but satisfying it can be. Lee also notes that leaders are sometimes “a little behind the times” because of how long medical training and promotions can take. “The more we can tap into our resources of the next generation, whether they’re our trainees or students or new faculty, they’re the ones who really understand . . . why it is that we should just be able to take a photo of your new rash and email it to the doc for the patient convenience,” says Lee, “and they’re the ones who are going to be able to help us drive that change forward.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Leadership: Translating Challenge to Success at Mayo Clinic, June 2, 2016.

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